December 1, 2010

Create an Economy 5-Way Precision Head

Benro HD-38 converted to 5-way overview
Speaking of pan heads, a 2-way head usually used for videography is able to pan and tilt backward-forward. A 3-way head has the extra ability of tilting sideways left-right enabling horizontal leveling or vertical positioning of a still camera for portrait framing.
If a 3-way head can cover all possible positions what would make the two extra moving axis of a 5-way head needed for, and which are these extra axis?
A 5-way head should in addition to the 3-way head be able to pivot its top plate and offer also fore-aft or lateral adjustment on that plain.
This gives an answer to the 3-way head issue when tilted in any way than its vertical position. Then, if you pivot the base  the camera/lens move in an arc instead of pivoting.
This may change the hole perspective, depending on the lens focal length, items may seem more distant or closer and/or go out of focus.

Nowadays, one can find 5-Way heads in the market, but, but... the price tag is BIG.


Having the right equipment in hand, it did not take long for me to figure out an economical way to create a 5-Way precision head.

Based on the sturdy Benro HD-38 3-way head, the Benro PC-1 Panorama clamp and the Nodal / Macro Rail I had previously put together, I created a 5-Way precision head in a few steps.

A 3-Way classic

Benro HD-38 3-way head
Take a classic 3-Way precision head like the Benro HD-38 with front-back, side tilt and panning movement. 
Benro PC-1 Panorama clamp + PH-10 QR plate w/ bushing
Then take a Panning Clamp as the Benro PC-1 Panorama clamp removing the dovetail quick release plate and attach it on the HD-38 - PH-10 quick release plate with the aid of an 1/4"-20 to 3/8"-16 thread conversion bushing...
Benro PC-1 clamp attached on PH-10 QR plate
...Ready !

Turned into... a 4-Way

Benro PC-1 clamp on Benro HD-38 3-way head
And by just attaching a Panorama clamp on the large Quick Release plate, you have instantly a 4-Way head.
Except from the fact that it is automatically converted to an Arca-Swiss® dovetail compatible Quick Release head, the greatest benefit is that now you can pivot the camera as close to the center of its lens as possible, independent of the tilt that may have been introduced to the tripod or the base of the head.
Otherwise the lens gets into an arching instead of pivoting.
Benro PC-1 + Benro HD-38 on Benro A-298EX tripod
Here the whole setup is mounted and leveled horizontally on a Benro A-298 EX Versatile tripod which is excellent for Macro work with its center column being able to move in different angles.
Benro PC-1 + Benro HD-38 tilted top view
Some tilt to show the setup.
The Panorama Clamp long screw knob can be easily used as a handle for the pivoting position.
Benro PC-1 + Benro HD-38 tilted forward view
Now even when the head is tilted to the front you can pivot the camera 360 degrees on its base.

Turned into... a 4,5-Way

Canon EOS Rebel XTi/400D on Benro HD-38 tilted forward & left
By mounting a camera equipped with an Arca-Swiss compatible base plate on the Panorama Clamp the benefits are more obvious.
Camera on Benro HD-38 tilted forward & left - pivoted right
Same head position but the camera is pivoted.
Camera on Benro HD-38 tilted forward & left - pivoted left
Adding an extra dimension gives unlimited new positions to the perspective.
Please note that I mentioned 4,5-Way because if you have a long enough dovetail plate on the camera, a small movement of 2cm (0.79") right or left is also possible, within the limits of the Panorama Clamp of course.



into... a 5-Way

Benro PC-1 + Benro HD-38 + DIY nodal rail top view
With the addition of a long plate like a the Nodal Rail I had described in another post, a full fifth dimension is added to the possible movements with this head. That is back and forth on the pivoting Clamp.
This is excellent for Macro work, but let your imagination free to discover many more uses especially in difficult positioning spots.
Benro PC-1 + Benro HD-38 + DIY nodal rail side view
A better rear side view of the setup.
Canon 400D on Benro PC-1 + Benro HD-38 + DIY nodal front view
Mounting a camera makes it more realistic.
Needless to say that this setup can also be used as a Single Row Panorama head.
Canon 400D on Benro PC-1 + Benro HD-38 + DIY nodal bottom back view
Again if you have a long enough dovetail plate on the camera, a small movement of 2cm (0.79")  right or left is also possible, within the limits of the Nodal Rail Clamp of course

I hope you found all the above "ways" and ideas useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: © 2010 S.C.Vlachos

Prices and Availability:
The Benro HD-38 3 Way pan-tilt head costs ~ US$ 125.00 in the US and is available from Amazon.com, ~ GBP 75.00 in the UK from Amazon.co.uk and ~ EUR 100.00 in Germany from Amazon.de or from eBay.
The Benro PC-1 Panorama clamp costs around US$ 110.00 shipping included from eBay and around EUR 150.00 from local European Markets.

If you are interested in buying any of the products, please consider help support this site by using the above link(s) to make your purchase(s).

Referenced Articles:
Benro HD-38 3-way hea Review
Benro A-298 EX Versatile Tripod Review
Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama clamps Review
Kiwi fotos LP-169 Lens Plate Review
Create an Economy Macro/Nodal Rail
Fotoporo QAL-500 5cm Quick Release Clamp

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